NEW YORK — Flying to Hawaii could get cheaper soon. Southwest Airlines announced plans to start service to the vacation destination.
The low-fare airline has been unable to reach the island state until now because it was beyond the reach of the Boeing 737 jets that has made up its fleet. But earlier this month it became the first U.S. carrier to take delivery of the new Boeing 737 Max, a longer range version of Boeing’s workhorse single aisle jet.
Boeing and Southwest must wait for FAA approval for long over-the-water passenger flights for the 737 Max before it can begin service. But Southwest, which announced plans for the service Wednesday, said it will start selling tickets for the service next year.
“We’re thrilled to bring Hawaii next year as an option to more than 115 million customers who already fly with us annually,” said Mike Van de Ven, Soutwest’s chief operating officer.
Southwest has typically driven down airfares on the routes it flies, in what is known as the “Southwest Effect.”
A study published by the business school at the University of Virginia earlier this year found that of 109 markets in which Southwest started service between 2012 and 2015, fares fell by an average of 15%, with nearly a third of the routes enjoying a drop of more than 20%.
Southwest is not the only airline looking at a new longer range jet to expand service to and from Hawaii.
Hawaiian Airlines CEO told CNNMoney recently that it is looking at whether to go ahead with a new Airbus jet to start providing 13-hour direct flights to markets such as India, western Australia and even London, or whether to switch to longer range Boeing jets such as 787 Dreamliners.